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Posts Tagged ‘Herb Siegal’

Matt Blank, Dennis Basso and the Story Behind Meghan McCain’s Latest TV Project

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Last week,  it was all about authors and agents, and today it was television titans’ turn in the rotating cast of characters that is Wednesdays at Michael’s. Tonight when Liz Smith hosts her annual kick-off for her Literacy Partners’ initiative, the joint will be jumping with social types like Diane von Furstenberg (who, we hear, recently broke her shoulder skiing and is, no doubt, sporting a fashionable sling) and her Vespa loving hubby Barry Diller, Cynthia McFadden, Cornelia Guest, Calvin TrillinNan Talese and Gay Talese. We won’t be there to trade air kisses with the glitterati, because we’ll be chatting up our favorite Bravolebrities at their upfront party across town (Giggy, that means you!).

Today I was joined by Evan Shapiro, president of pivot (yes, with a lower case ‘p’) the new cable network targeting the all-important millennial audience  launched by Participant Media, the production company responsible for an impressive slate of projects, including An Inconvenient Truth, The Help and Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln. Participant chairman and founder Jeff Skoll and CEO Jim Berk tapped Evan to spearhead the company’s expansion into television in May of last year. Prior to that, he had served as president of IFC and Sundance Channel where we was responsible for award-winning program, like the buzzed about Portlandia.

I could barely keep up with Evan, whose passion for his latest gig was evident from the moment he sat down. The incredibly youthful 45-year-old father of two teenage girls told me running pivot is his “dream job,” because he’s doing more than creating what he considers groundbreaking television. “Ten years ago I would have said my dream job would have been at NBC or CBS.  Today, it’s this job because we’re doing something that’s going to have an impact on the world.” Evan dismisses the notion of millennials as spoiled and entitled and instead compares them to ‘the greatest generation’ saying, “Like ‘the greatest generation,’ they have been handed a series of events not of their own making, and, post 9/11 and the Great Recession, they have a real sense of their place in the world and want to make a difference.”

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Vernon Jordan, Paul Shaffer and Richard Belzer Grab a Bite at Michael’s

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Harvey Keitel (who, we hear, is a pretty nice guy) by a day, but the usual suspects kept things hopping in the dining room at Michael’s today. By now, we’ve grown used to seeing Richard Belzer with his dog Bebe (pronounced Bay-Bay en Francais, in case you were wondering) in tow for his 1 pm lunches every now and again. But we did perk up when Vernon Jordan came in. Talk about presence!

I had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite regulars, ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstong who, when I first started writing this column, made it his personal mission to introduce me to as many movers and shakers as possible. The native Texan with the heart of gold just can’t help himself when it comes to do-good deeds. This afternoon he was full of fire telling me about the upcoming benefit for The Hole in The Wall Gang Camp on October 21 at Lincoln Center. Joe spent seven years as a camp counselor during the summer at the original Connecticut camp — He now proudly bears the title of ‘Mr. Ambassador’ for the organization — and can’t say enough about the kids whose lives are forever changed thanks to Paul Newman. “They make you realize what is really important, ” says Joe.

So, if you want to help continue Newman’s good works and spend an evening rubbing shoulders with Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, Joanne Woodward and Renee Zellweger, get out those checkbooks and buy a ticket to the gala. Tell them Joe sent you …

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Self‘s Lucy Danziger and some leggy leather clad gals from L’Oreal talking ‘stress management’

2. Law & Order SVU’s Richard Belzer and David Letterman‘s band leader Paul Shaffer

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and O’s book editor Sara Nelson.

4. Leonard Lauder and a casually elegant gal who, upon greeting the cosmetic king exclaimed, “This is the high point of my week!”

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Lunch: Andre Leon Talley — Media Star!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We missed Blythe Danner by a day. Too bad, I would have loved to have asked her what she thinks of her daughter’s goofy — but strangely compelling — Web site, GOOP. It’s the gospel according to Gwyneth, where she holds forth on all things great and small — from how to wear a little black dress to how she got rid of her ‘Shar-Pei-like stomach’ after her pregnancies (I’m not kidding). No matter. The dining room was jam-packed, as it’s been for weeks on Wednesdays now. Even the bar was standing room only. I was happy to catch up with my pals ‘The Bar-ettes’ Kira Semler and Vi Huse (They had to cancel a few weeks back because of that dreadful storm). But today spring was in the air, and from the looks of things, everyone was feeling upbeat.

I was thrilled when my friend Andre Leon Talley asked me to join him and Linda Wachner for coffee. Looking dapper as can be, Vogue‘s main man was fresh off his appearance on Today this morning, where he chatted with Meredith Vieira (“She was so easy to talk to”) about his much-anticipated March cover story on Michelle Obama. “I’m really proud of it,” says Andre of his exclusive up close and personal profile of the First Lady. There had been plenty of speculation on whether Mrs. Obama would be gracing the cover of the fashion bible after her hairdresser (who is getting his own reality show) semi-spilled the beans, but Andre says everyone at Vogue was sworn to secrecy. Now that it’s official, he’s making the rounds to talk about what it was like to spend time with the First Lady for the piece. He taped a segment for NBC Nightly News this morning, and he was off to do a sit-down after lunch with Wolf Blitzer (and he’s going back to CNN for a second appearance tomorrow). With so much interest surrounding the story and accompanying images, I’m predicting the issue will be one of the magazine’s strongest sellers ever. “I think it’s going to be huge,” says Andre. It’s a pretty safe bet, I’d say …

Andre told me he was struck by the First Lady’s “focus and clarity” about her new life and, of course, was duly impressed by her fierce determination and commitment to give her girls as normal a life as possible. “She doesn’t want them to grow up in a bubble,” he reports. Andre saw the bond between mother and daughters firsthand as he made the seven-hour train ride with the Obamas as they journeyed from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. to the inauguration. It was something to see, he said, when the girls threw their mom a surprise birthday party on the train, having spent two hours decorating the car in secret. Michelle was understandably thrilled, says Andre. “Her genuine warmth is amazing.” We both agree it’s high time interesting people who are actually doing something push the 11-pound, 11 year-old celebutantes who are famous for being famous from the spotlight. Could it be that ‘smart’ is the new cool? Here’s hoping…

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kevin Huvane (who got hugs from the staff upon his arrival) and a mystery gent…

2. The Early shift: Dennis Basso and Marjorie Gubelman; Second seating: Bruce Wasserstein and his lovely daughter Pamela.

3. CNBC’s Jonathan Wald and Dan Abrams. When I stopped by to say hello, they told me the two “old friends” were having a “catch up” lunch. The Late Show: Lanky Luke Janklow and a distinguished gray-haired gal.

4. Jack Kliger

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Lunch: Where the Magic Happens

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— DIANE CLEHANE

I thought I’d seen just about everything from my regular perch at Michael’s during my weekly visits, but today topped all. They were serving up sides of card tricks with the Cobb salads today and the gang was just eating it up. When I arrived, illusionist JB Benn was standing at the bar shuffling a deck of playing cards for Frank Gifford as his pals Hunter Millington — yes, Steve‘s brother — and Chris Graham looked on. He asked the gridiron great to sign a card and place it back in the deck. After a great deal of slow-mo shuffling, he finally pulled out the very same card from a sealed envelope in his jacket pocket.”I better make sure I’ve still got my watch,” quipped Frank. JB then drafted me into service asking me how many dollar bills he was holding in his hands. Frank and I both agreed he had four single dollars. Literally, right before our eyes the bills turned into hundreds. Within minutes, a crowd had gathered and there were gasps all around. I wouldn’t be surprised if JB is now booked between now and 2010 as the entertainment at parties from the Upper East Side to Easthampton as result of his impromptu performance this afternoon.

The utterly charming and adorable Mr. Benn (“He looks like a better-looking Tom Cruise,” said one smitten diner) made the rounds in the dining room eliciting applause all around. When I saw how wowed Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb were after the illusionist worked his magic on them, I suggested they might want to have him on the show to make ‘Sam the Cooking Guy’ disappear. In case you haven’t heard, Sam caused quite a stir on Today last Wednesday’s show in a segment during the fourth hour when he basically told the co-hosts to shut up and let him talk about his salad when he thought they had gotten too chatty. Sam clearly didn’t know what to do when he realized he had actually verbalized what he was thinking. He then sputtered out the ingredients of his salad while Kathie Lee and Hoda just watched him squirm — a classic TV moment. But, says Kathie Lee, Sam isn’t banished from the set. “I’m big on second chances,” she says. But be warned, Sam. “I forgive — but I don’t forget.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Woody Johnson (sporting a discreet ‘McCain‘ button) and a squadron of suits. Just asking: Is the Jets’ owner advising Michael’s on personal seat licensing?

2. Three members of the ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerry Imber, Andy Berger and Jerry Della Femina. I had a great chat with Jerry about AMC’s runaway hit “Mad Men.” (If you haven’t tuned in, check it out on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. It’s the best dramatic series on television right now — seriously) Turns out the legendary ad man was one of a select few that got an early look at the script for the series’ pilot because creator Matthew Weiner wanted to make sure he got every detail right, from the Brooks Brothers suits worn by the execs to the nonstop smoking that helped fuel the creative fire on Madison Avenue in the early sixties. Jerry, who had a “four pack a day” habit back then, says the show has been a boon for business. “For the longest time nobody wanted to be in advertising. Everybody wanted to be an investment banker. Now, because of the show, people are talking about advertising again. It’s revitalized the industry. I’m back in fashion again!” Indeed.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, producer Joan Gelman and marketing strategist and frequent CNN contributor Robert Zimmerman (glad to hear you’re a ‘Lunch’ fan!). Before my good pal Joe — who is jetting off to Europe this week for a much-deserved vacation — and his fellow Democratic boosters settled down for lunch they, too, were dazzled by Mr. Benn’s sleight of hand. Before they could dash off to their table I asked Robert, who is privy to the inner workings of the Democratic party, for his thoughts on who will be Barack Obama’s running mate. The suddenly taciturn strategist demurred, but offered his thoughts on who it should be — “Joe Armstrong, of course.” Remember, you heard it here first.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld and Carnegie Hall head Clive Gillinson

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Lunch: The British Are Coming — Tomorrow!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

We’re still exhausted from hob nobbing with last week’s overflow of A-listers, so we were almost glad things were a bit more subdued at 55th & Fifth today. It gave us a chance to catch up and chat with some our favorite regulars. Imagine my chagrin when I stopped by Matt Blank‘s table and Showtime’s CEO told me had I switched my weekly reservation to tomorrow, I’d be chatting with some of the biggest stars of his network. On Thursday, Matt and entertainment president Bob Greenblatt are hosting their own “British invasion” at table one when the entire glorious cast of The Tudors — the dreamy Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Peter O’Toole and Natalie Dormer will be breaking bread with the network’s other stars — including Tracy Ullman, whose show State of the Union, will premiere March 30, the same night as the new season of The Tudors. Thank God, something to watch! (I’ve been completely depressed over the fast approaching season finale of HBO’s In Treatment…) Also in attendance, says Matt, will be Billie Piper, who stars in — and we’re not kidding — the upcoming Secret Diaries of a Call Girl, which will premiere in June. Talk about timely. Perhaps the newly unemployed Eliot Spitzer can make a cameo appearance.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina and the gang with Fox News’ Monica Crowley.

2. Showtime’s chairman and CEO Matt Blank with über producer Michael Davies.

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Glamoureditrix Cindi Leive (Glad you hear you’re a loyal “Lunch” reader!). The Mayor was celebrating with his friend Cindi over a glass of red wine — and a few asparagus spears — about her big news. Minutes before lunch, Cindi found out Glamour is a finalist for the fourth year in a row for the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. No woman’s magazine has ever been so honored! The worthy competitors: Time, People, National Geographic and Martha Stewart Living. Congrats! Before Cindi and Joe tucked into their lunch, we unanimously decided New York‘s Spitzer cover this week is one for the ages. Brilliant!

4. Norman Pearlstine and a young gent no one seemed to know …

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Lunch At Michael’s: Lance Armstrong — For Governor?

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Remember a few weeks back when I promised Lunch readers a full report on the off chance we had our own encounter Lance Armstrong at 55th & Fifth? Well, here’s your early holiday treat. The Tour de France winner-turned-man about town was holding court at Table One today so I couldn’t resist chatting up the surprisingly shy guy. When I first spotted Lance in the power spot I was struck by how dashing (and slim) he looked in his power suit (accessorized, of course, with his own LiveStrong bracelet). All you gossipmongers out there will probably be disappointed to learn he wasn’t dining with his ex-Tory Burch or his one time canoodling partner Ashley Olsen. When I introduced myself to Lance as he got up to leave, he looked a bit nervous when he spotted me surreptitiously (or so I thought) taking notes. “What are you writing?” he asked nervously. That’s when I knew it wasn’t exactly the right time to ask about Tory or Ashley, so I told him I write this little column about who lunches at Michael’s on Wednesdays and asked him if he could tell me who he was with today. After giving the question a bit more time than one would think it warranted, he warmed up and answered. Turns out my new pal was dining with the head of his foundation, Doug Ulman and Kathy Giusti, founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. “She does an incredible job raising money for the prevention of that cancer,” he said. When asked why he chose to come to Michael’s (it’s his second visit in so many months), he said with a big smile, “Whenever I ask people where they want to have lunch they say, ‘Let’s go to Michael’s!” He told me he had another date planned but since he seemed a bit skittish about generating any press I promised him I’d keep mum on the specifics. In the meantime, ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong says fellow Texans are so impressed by Lance’s heroic fundraising efforts that there’s a movement afoot to draft him into running for governor of the Longhorn state. If Arnold can do it, why not?

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Lance Armstrong, Doug Ulman and Kathy Giusti.

2. Peter Brown.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Dorothy Kalins enjoying a long awaited “reunion lunch.” These good pals go way back to the days when Joe was founding publisher of Saveur and Dorothy was editor …

4. Would love loved to have been a fly on the wall for this one: Jim Dolan and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman.

5. Herb Siegal — congrats on your engagement! Ain’t love grand …

6. A group of gents we didn’t recognize …

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Lunch At Michael’s: A ‘Roomful of Bitches’

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpg[EDITOR'S NOTE: Sure, the media world shuts down in late August — and our Lunch At Michael's column takes a breather to regroup — but we wouldn't let those of you chained to your desks down. This week and next we're running favorite columns from the past year, handpicked by our LaM scribe, Diane Clehane.]

We’re always kept more than occupied checking out the bold faced names in the main dining room on our weekly visits but today our radar was truly put to the test when the usually celeb-free Garden Room was the hotbed of activity with an estrogen-fueled, invitation-only lunch hosted by Peggy Siegal for Arianna Huffington. The luncheon (where no one touched dessert) brought out the most head-spinning cross-section of alpha females, power blondes and social swans we’ve seen in a long time.

The Gotham gals we spotted: Joni Evans, Karenna Gore, Naomi Wolff (who must be so proud of Al Gore‘s newfound mojo), Zoe Baird, Nora Ephron (who seemed to be traveling incognito in her dark sunglasses while checking out the dining room on her way inside), Fern Mallis, Dayle Haddon (who somehow lost her cellphone in the fray), Fran Drescher, Karen Duffy, Arlene Dahl (sporting her favorite black patent leather newsboy cap!?!), Deborah Roberts, Erica Jong, Maria Cuomo Cole, Somers White and InStyle‘s Cindy Weber Cleary. Lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane, who was dining with OK! editrix Sarah Ivens, got the lowdown on the crowd from Joan Rivers, who summed up the afternoon thusly: “You’re better off out here! That was a roomful of bitches in there!”

Here’s a rundown of the rest of the crowd:

Table 1. A pow-wow of beauty industry bigwigs: GCI (Global Cosmetic Industry) editor-in-chief Karen A. Newman, Marc Rosen and a table full of colleagues. A photographer from Cosmetic World/Beauty Fashion hovered nearby to capture the big doings.

2. Uberagent Esther Newberg, who was spotted picking at the plate of her guest.

3. John Josephson.

4. Herb Siegal.

5. Stanley Schuman.

6. Henry Schlieff toting a Hallmark goodie bag to his lunch with newsgals Lynn White, Rosanna Scott, Jane Hansen and Penny Crone. The tireless showman was overheard asking Charles Stevenson who was seated at David Patrick Columbia‘s table about his golf game and promising to hit the links with him soon .

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Lunch at Michael’s: Brokaw & Burns Break Bread

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgThe scene at 55th & Fifth was bustling as always thanks to one iconic newsman (we always sit up a little straighter when Tom Brokaw is in the room), a mix of movie moguls and the usual roundup of public relations pitchmen and women. Peggy Siegal did her usual flitting from table to table (We have to ask: what was up with that rugby striped mini dress, muffler and corduroy jacket? Homage to the Love Story era Ali McGraw, perhaps?). Paramount CEO Brad Grey did his share of glad-handing. It was introductions all around at the SRO bar, too. Michael‘s wife Kim McCarty made the acquaintance of lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane and chatted about the couple’s upcoming trip to Paris to visit their daughter, Clancy. Bon Voyage!

Here’s a rundown of today’s menu:

1. A table of distinguished looking gentlemen including ad man Jerry Della Femina and Good Morning America‘s Joel Siegel.

2. Peter Brown and guest.

3. Ben Silverman and Matt Blank.

4. Steve Rubenstein and guests.

5. Herb Siegal

6. Leslie Stevens of LaForce & Stevens and two unidentified fashionistas.

7. Marc Victor (Happy Birthday!), producer Amy Rosenblum and Giada De Laurentiis. The Food Network hottie has been sitting on Today‘s couch as a substitute chatter during the show’s third hour. “She’s doing great!” says the always affable Marc.

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Lunch at Michael’s: All Hail Tina Brown!

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When a little birdie told us to switch our weekly reservation from Wednesday to Thursday so as not to miss the confab of publishing powerhouses that were expected today, we did so in a heartbeat. We’re happy to report today’s crowd didn’t disappoint. Where else could you see Newsweek honcho Jon Meacham bow down to Tina Brown at Mayor Joe Armstrong‘s table, or watch a gaggle of social swans fawn over Project Runway breakout star Tim Gunn while cooling their Jimmy Choos in the lounge? The worlds of substance and style collided today at 55th & Fifth.

The results kept us so busy gawking that we barely finished our salad nicoise:

1. Mayor Joe Armstrong presiding over one of his legendary lunches with a host of truly impressive guests. Tina Brown arrived looking every inch the power blonde in black leather and was greeted with great fanfare by all including an enthusiastic hug from neighboring diner and former Condé Nast colleague Shirley Lord. We can’t wait for Tina’s new book, The Diana Chronicles, due out in June from Doubleday with an excerpt to run in Vanity Fair. Word is she breaks big news about the People’s Princess. We can’t imagine what’s left to reveal, but we’re all ears! Joe kept the conversation flowing among pals Liz Smith, Newsweek‘s Jon Meacham, ABC News producer Kathy O’Hearn, Random House’s Susan Mercandetti (who edited Bob Woodruff‘s new book, In An Instant. The ABC newsman’s tale of recovery following his near-death experience in Iraq as written mainly by his wife will debut at number one on the Times bestseller list Sunday, March 16. Couldn’t happen to nicer guy!).

Always the gentleman, Joe took time out from keeping things lively to introduce lunchtime chronicler Diane Clehane to two of his other guests, Vanity Fair correspondent Marie Brenner and Newsweek scribe Holly Peterson. We’ve been fans of Marie’s ever since she took on the tobacco industry in a piece that became the basis for The Insider. Joe teased that her upcoming expose on Guantanamo Bay for Vanity Fair will be even more explosive. We’re really intrigued by Holly’s new book, The Manny, — which earned her $1 million for the book and movie rights. (Not bad for a first timer.) The novel taps into the cultural zeitgeist by chronicling the fictional exploits of a male nanny who does more for Upper East Side yummy mummies than look after their kiddies. The sure-to-be-bestseller is also due out here in June from HarperCollins but is already selling like mad in the U.K.

2. Shirley Lord & Peter Brown.

3. Charlie Rose and Zoe Baird. The talkshow host looking more debonair than usual (the no tie look really works for you, Charlie) held Ms. Baird’s rapt attention throughout lunch — must have been a very intriguing tale …

4. ‘Entourage’ East: EMI president Charlie Walk with four black-suited young gents.

5. Herb Siegal.

6. Freddy Gershorn and Steve Swid.

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Lunch at Michael’s: Ex-CBS News Prez Says Give Katie A Chance

lunch_at_michaels_logo.jpgAs much as we’ve come to enjoy our perch at the bar with its bird’s eye view, we were thrilled when one of our favorite television titans, Andrew Heyward, invited us to join him and his guests for lunch. Today’s lunchtime chronicler, Diane Clehane, chatted with the always affable and extremely insightful former president of CBS News and Bostonian pals Jeffrey F. Rayport, chairman and founder of Marketspace and his wife, investment consultant Hilary Hedge. Andrew, who is currently working with fellow Harvard alum Mr. Rayport as a consultant to Marketspace’s media practice, looked relaxed and happy (love the Zegna suit!) as he weighed in on his former employer’s decision to hire Katie Couric to anchor the evening news. “They are not to be underestimated. They deserve credit for trying new ideas and taking the program in new directions. The reporting is excellent.” His take on Couric: “She’s very talented and has brought a warmth to the broadcast. It takes time to find your voice and it takes time for viewers to find you.” So back off, you naysayers!

Here’s the rundown on the best of the rest:

1. Bruce Wasserstein presiding over a table of imposing-looking gentlemen.

2. Peter Brown and Joan Cooney.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia with the lovely Joan Jacobson.

4. Herb Siegal and guest.

5. Producer Irv Winkler and an outdoorsy-looking gent. The hit-maker — whose latest picture, Rocky Balboa, has proven to be a knockout punch at the box office — was collared by Peggy Siegal (who was showing off her pics taken on a recent trip to Africa to all who stopped by) on his way out. The uber publicist was overheard extending an invite to Irv to attend her screening of “The Lives of Others.” Second shift: Former New York City Council president and one-time mayoral candidate Andrew Stein.

6. Our friend Terry Allen Kramer, Margo McNabb and guest.

7. A flack named “BJ,” we’re told …

8. Messieurs Heyward and Rayport, Ms. Hedge and Ms. Clehane.

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